Life for Our Colonial Ancestors
Here are some excerpts from Notes on the Settlement and Indian Wars by Joseph Doddridge (1824), a book written almost 175 years ago, that describes the life and times of the Pendleton County pioneers:
"The settlement of a new country, in the immediate neighborhood of an old one, is not attended with much difficulty, because supplies can be readily obtained from the latter; but the settlement of a country very remote from any cultivated region is quite a different thing, because at the outset, food, raiment, and the implements of husbandry are only obtained in small supplies, and with great difficulty. The task of making new establishments in a remote wilderness, in a time of profound peace, is sufficiently difficult; but when, in addition to all the unavoidable hardships attendant on this business, those resulting from an extensive and furious warfare with savages are superadded; toil, privations and sufferings are then carried to the full extent of the capacity of men to endure them.
"Such was the wretched condition of our forefathers in making their settlements here. To all their difficulties and privations the Indian war was a weighty addition. This destructive warfare they were compelled to sustain almost single-handed, because the Revolutionary contest gave full employment for the military strength and resources on the east side of the mountains.
"The following history of the poverty, labors, sufferings, manners and customs of our forefathers, will appear like a collection of `tales of olden times.'
"The furniture for the table, for several years after the settlement of this country, consisted of a few pewter dishes, plates and spoons; but mostly of wooden bowls, trenchers and noggins. If these last were scarce, gourds and hard-shelled squashes made up the deficiency.
"The iron pots, knives and forks were brought from the East, with the salt and iron, on pack-horses.
"These articles of furniture corresponded very well with the articles of diet. `Hog and hominy' were proverbial for the dish of which they were the component parts. Jonnycake and pone were, at the outset of the settlements of the country, the only forms of bread in use for breakfast and dinner. At supper, milk and mush was the standard dish. When milk was not plenty, which was often the case, owing to the scarcity of cattle, or the want of proper pasture for them, the substantial dish of hominy had to supply the place of them; mush was frequently eaten with sweetened water, molasses, bear's oil, or the gravy of fried meat.
"Yet our homely fare, and unsightly cabins and furniture produced a hardy race, who planted the first footsteps of civilization in the immense regions of the West. Inured to hardships, bravery and labor, from their early youth, they sustained with manly fortitude the fatigue of the chase, the campaign and scout, and with strong arms `turned the wilderness into fruitful fields,' and have left to their descendants the rich inheritance of an immense empire blessed with peace, and wealth, and prosperity.
"Attire: On the frontier, and particularly among those who were much in the habit of hunting, and going on scouts and campaigns, the dress of men was partly Indian and partly that of civilized nations.
"The hunting shirt was universally worn. This was a kind of loose frock, reaching half-way down the things, with large sleeves, open before, and so wide as to lap over a foot or more when belted. The cape was large, and sometimes fringed with a ravelled piece of cloth, of a different color from that of the hunting shirt itself. The bosom of this dress served as a wallet to hold bread, cakes, jerk, tow for wiping the barrel of the rifle, or any other necessary for the hunter or warrior. The belt, which was always tied behind, answered several purposes, besides that of holding the dress together. In cold weather, the mittens, and sometimes the bullet-bag occupied the front part of it. To the right side was suspended the tomahawk, and to the left the scalping-knife, in its leathern sheath. The hunting shirt was generally made of linsey, [cotton and woolen cloth] sometimes of coarse linen, and a few of dressed deer-skins. These last were very cold and uncomfortable, in wet weather. The shirt and jacket were of the common fashion. A pair of drawers, or breeches and leggins were the dress of the thighs and legs, a pair of moccasins answered for their feet much better than shoes. These were made of dressed deer-skin. They were mostly of a single piece, with a gathering seam along the top of the foot, and another from the bottom of the heel, without gathers, as high or a little higher than the ankle joint. Flaps were left on each side, to reach some distance up the legs. These were nicely adapted to the ankles and lower part of the leg by thongs of deer-skin, so that no dust, gravel, or snow could get within the moccasin.
"In cold weather the moccasins were well stuffed with deers' hair or dry leaves, so as to keep the feet comfortably warm; but in wet weather it was usually said, that wearing them was `a decent way of going barefooted;' and such was the fact, owing to the spongy texture of the leather of which they were made.
"Owing to this defective covering of the feet more than to any other circumstance, the greater number of our hunters and warriors were afflicted with rheumatism in their limbs. Of this disease they were all apprehensive in cold or wet weather, and therefore always slept with their feet to the fire, to prevent or cure it as well as they could. This practice unquestionably had a very salutary effect, and prevented many of them from becoming confirmed cripples in early life.
"In the latter years of the Indian war, our young men became more enamored with the Indian dress. The drawers were laid aside and the leggins made longer, so as to reach the upper part of the thigh. The Indian breech-cloth was adopted. This was a piece of linen or cloth nearly a yard long, and eight or nine inches broad. This passed under the belt, before and behind, leaving the ends for flaps hanging before and behind over the belt. These flaps were sometimes ornamented with some coarse kind of embroidery work. To the same belt which secured the breech-cloth, strings, which supported the long leggins, were attached. When this belt, as was often the case, passed over the hunting shirt, the upper part of the thighs and part of the hips were naked.
"The linsey coats and bed-gowns, which were the universal dress of our women in early times, would make a strange figure at this day."
In History of Pendleton County (1910), Oren F. Morton describes home life: "Stoves being unknown, cooking was done before or over the fire, or in the bake oven. Kettles were suspended from a hook in the fireplace. The skillet to hold over the fire was long-handled, and it was an art to toss up a flapjack and catch it on its other side. The stone bakeoven with a smooth slab or an iron plate for its floor was made hot with a fire of dry wood. When the flames had died away the ashes were swabbed out and the loaves set in with a long paddle, and the door of charred boards tightly closed.
"The dietary was simpler than at present, the staff of life being pone, johnny cake, or mush, more often than the white loaf. Until gristmills were built, hard corn was pounded with a pestle in a hominy block, and softer corn was rubbed on a grater. Game meat was much in use so long as it remained plenty. Vegetables were fewer in variety and not so early as with us.
"There were various modes of acquiring unoccupied public lands. Building a cabin and growing a crop of grain, even if a small crop, entitled a man to 400 acres. The `corn right' gave a claim to 100 acres by inclosing and cultivating a single acre. The `cabin right' gave a claim to 40 acres by building a log hut on a certain tract.
"For the better care of the public highways, the county was divided into road precincts, one for every militia district. All white males above the age of 16, except ferrymen and the owner of two or more slaves, were required to work the roads. A public road was supposed to be 30 feet wide and to be kept in repair, but the provision as to width was seldom carried out."
"As a colony, and for some years as a state, Virginia adhered to the British coinage of pounds, shillings, and pence. During the period of the Revolution and later, the value of the Virginia pound was $3.33. The shilling was 16 2/3¢ and the penny was worth 11/3¢."
"Education: For perhaps thirty years after the settlement of Pendleton, we have no positive knowledge of any schools within the county. It is doubtful if there was anywhere a building used specially as a schoolhouse, though it is far less probable that there was an entire neglect of school training. Teaching in those days was considered a private not a public matter, and to a large extent it was an adjunct to the ministerial office. We may safely conclude, therefore, that among the German settlers the ministerial head of the Propst church gave instruction through the medium of the German tongue. Otherwise, and among German-speaking as well as English speaking settlers, the only education was doubtless by private tutoring or by such heads of families as were competent to teach the rudiment to their own children.
"In those days and for years afterward the amount of illiteracy was very great, and the women were more illiterate than the men. Some of the more prominent settlers could sign their names only by means of a mark. Oftentimes both husband and wife had to make use of this expedient in signing a deed or a marriage bond. Sometimes an initial letter was used instead of a simple cross. [An example of this can be seen by the "M" signed by Moses Harper on his last will and testament in Chapter 4.] Positive illiteracy was probably least rare among the Germans. Usually the German settler signed his name in German script, but once in a while he used a mark in signing a paper written in English."
Doddridge continues, "Hunting: This was an important part of the employment of the early settlers of this country. For some years the wood supplied them with the greater amount of their subsistence, and with regard to some families at certain times, the whole of it; for it was no uncommon thing for families to live several months without a mouthful of bread. It frequently happened that there was no breakfast until it was obtained from the woods. Fur constituted the people's money. They had nothing else to give in exchange for rifles, salt, and iron, on the other side of the mountains.
"The Wedding: For a long time after the first settlement of this country, the inhabitants in general married young. There was no distinction of rank, and very little of fortune. On these accounts, the first impression of love resulted in marriage; and a family establishment cost but a little labor, and nothing else.
"In the first years of the settlement of the country, a wedding engaged the attention of a whole neighborhood; and the frolic was anticipated by old and young with eager expectation. This is not to be wondered at, when it is told that a wedding was almost the only gathering which was not accompanied with the labor of reaping, log-rolling, building a cabin, or planning some scout or campaign.
"On the morning of the wedding-day, the groom and his attendants assembled at the house of his father, for the purpose of reaching the home of his bride by noon, which was the usual time for celebrating the nuptials; and which for certain reasons must take place before dinner.
"Let the reader imagine an assemblage of people, without a store, tailor, or mantuamaker within an hundred miles; and an assemblage of horses, without a blacksmith or saddler within an equal distance. The gentlemen dressed in shoe-packs, moccasins, leather breeches, leggins, linsey hunting shirts, and all home made. The ladies dressed in linsey petticoats and linsey or linen bed gowns, coarse shoes, stockings, handkerchiefs, and buckskin gloves, if any. If there were any buckles, rings, buttons, or ruffles, they were the relics of olden times; family pieces from parents or grand parents. The horses were caparisoned with old saddles, old bridles or halters, and pack-saddles, with a bag or blanket thrown over them: a rope or string as often constituted the girth as a piece of leather.
"The march, in double-file, was often interrupted by the narrowness and obstructions of our horse-paths, as they were called, for we had no roads; and these difficulties were often increased, sometimes by the good, and sometimes by the ill will of neighbors, by falling trees, and tying grape vines across the way.
"The ceremony of the marriage preceded the dinner, which was a substantial back-woods feast of beef, pork, fowls, and sometimes venison and bear meat, roasted and boiled, with plenty of potatoes, cabbage, and other vegetables. During the dinner the greatest hilarity always prevailed; although the table might be a large slab of timber, hewed out with a broad axe, supported by four sticks set in auger holes; and the furniture, some old pewter dishes, and plates; the rest, wooden bowls and trenchers; a few pewter spoons, much battered about the edges, were to be seen at some tables. The rest were made of horns. If knives were scarce, the deficiency was made up by the scalping knives which were carried in sheaths suspended to the belt of the hunting shirt. Every man carried one of them.
"After dinner the dancing commenced, and generally lasted till the next morning. The figures of the dances were three and four handed reels, or square setts, and jigs. The commencement was always a square four, which was followed by what was called jiging it off; that is, two of the four would single out for a jig, and were followed by the remaining couple. The jigs were often accompanied with what was called cutting out; that is, when either of the parties became tired of the dance, on intimation the place was supplied by some one of the company without any interruption to the dance. In this way a dance was often continued till the musician was heartily tired of his situation.
"It often happened that some neighbors or relations, not being asked to the wedding, took offence; and the mode of revenge adopted by them on such occasions, was that of cutting off the manes, foretops, and tails of the horses of the wedding company.
"The feasting and dancing often lasted several days, at the end of which the whole company were so exhausted with loss of sleep, that many days' rest were requisite to fit them to return to their ordinary labors."
Morton tells us that, "In the Revolutionary days the marriage certificate was presented to the justice of the peace to whom it was directed. He then gave authority to the minister of the parish, or parish reader, who after publishing the banns [written announcement], performed the ceremony, kept a record and gave a certificate, the latter not being deposited with the county clerk. If either groom or bride were under the age of twenty-one, and this was very often the case, the consent of the parents had to accompany the bond, the clerk then issuing a license. The bond was commonly written on a half-sheet or quarter-sheet of unruled, bluish paper."
Doddridge continues, "House Warming: I will proceed to state the usual manner of settling a young couple in the world.
"A spot was selected on a piece of land belonging to one of the parents, for their habitation. A day was appointed shortly after the marriage, for commencing the work of building their cabin.
"The materials for the cabin were mostly prepared on the first day and sometimes the foundation laid in the evening. The second day was allotted for the raising.
"The cabin being furnished, the ceremony of house warming took place, before the young couple were permitted to move into it.
"The house warming was a dance of a whole night's continuance, made up of the relations of the bride and groom, and their neighbors. On the day following the young couple took possession of their new premises. "
Outdoor Activities: Many of the sports of the early settlers of this country, were imitative of the exercises and stratagems of hunting and war. Boys were taught the use of the bow and arrow at an early age. Throwing the tomahawk was another boyish sport, in which many acquired considerable skill.
"A well grown boy, at the age of twelve or thirteen years, was furnished with a small rifle and shot pouch. He then became a fort soldier, and had his port hole assigned him. Hunting squirrels, turkeys and racoons soon made him expert in the use of his gun.
"Singing was another but not very common amusement among our first settlers. As to cards, dice, backgammon and other games of chance, we knew nothing about them.
[Please note the point that Doddridge now makes about global warming - 175 years ahead of his time.] "Changes in the System of Weather: Great changes have taken place in our system of weather, since the settlement of the western country, yet these changes have been so gradual that it is no very easy task to recollect or describe them. At the first settlement of the country the summers were much cooler than they are at present. For many years we scarcely ever had a single warm night during the whole summer. The evenings were cool, and the mornings frequently uncomfortably cold. The coldness of the nights was owing to the deep shade of the lofty forest trees, which everywhere covered the ground. In addition to this, the surface of the earth was still further shaded by large crops of wild grass and weeds, which prevented it from becoming heated by the rays of the sun during the day.
"One distressing circumstance resulted from the wild herbage of our wilderness. It produced innumerable swarms of gnats, mosquitoes and horse flies. These distressing insects gave such annoyance to man and beast that they may justly be ranked among the early plagues of the country.
"Our summers in early times were mostly very dry. The beds of our large creeks, excepting in the deep holes, presented nothing but naked rocks. The mills were not expected to do any grinding after the latter end of May, excepting for short time after a thunder gust; our most prudent housekeepers, therefore, took care to have their summer stock of flour ground in the months of March and April. If this stock was expended too soon there were no resources but those of the hominy block or hand mill. It was a frequent saying among our farmers that three good rains were sufficient to make a crop of corn, if they happened at the proper times. The want of rain was compensated in some degree by heavy dews, which were then more common than of late, owing to the shaded situation of the earth, which prevented it from becoming either warm or dry, by the rays of the sun, during even the warmest weather. Frost and snow set in much earlier in former times than of late. I have known the whole crop of corn in Greenbrier destroyed by frost on the night of the twenty-second of September. The corn in this district of country was mostly frost-bitten at the same time. Such early frosts, of equal severity, have not happened for some time past. Hunting snows usually commenced about the middle of October. November was regarded as a winter month, as the winter frequently set in with severity during that month, and sometimes at an early period of it.
"For a long time after the settlement of the country we had an abundance of snow, in comparison to the amount we usually have now. It was no unusual thing to have snows from one to three feet in depth, and of long continuance. Our people often became tired of seeing the monotonous aspect of the country so long covered with a deep snow, and `longed to see the ground bare once more.' I well remember the labor of opening roads through those deep snows, which often fell in a single night, to the barn, spring, smoke house and corn crib. The labor of getting wood, after a deep fall of snow, was in the highest degree disagreeable. A tree, when fallen, was literally buried in the snow, so that the driver of the horses had to plunge the whole length of his arms into it to get the long chain around the butt end of the tree to haul it home. The depth of the snows, the extreme cold and length of our winters, were indeed distressing to the first settlers, who were but poorly provided with clothing, and whose cabins were mostly very open and uncomfortable. Getting wood, making fires, feeding the stock, and going to mill, were considered sufficient employment for any family, and truly those labors left them little time for anything else.
"The spring of the year in former times was pretty much like our present springs. We commonly had an open spell of weather during the latter part of February, denominated by some `pawwawing days' and by others `weather breeders.' The month of March was commonly stormy and disagreeable throughout. It was a common saying that we must not expect spring until the `borrowed days', that is, the three first days of April were over. Sugar was often made in the early part of April. It sometimes happened that a great part of April was but little better than March, with regard to storms of rain, snow and a cold chiling air. I once noticed forty frosts after the first day of April; yet our fruit that year was not wholly destroyed. We never considered ourselves secure from frost until the first ten days of May had past. During these days we never failed of having cold, stormy weather, with more or less frost.
"From this history of the system of weather of our early time, it appears that our seasons have already undergone great and important changes. Our summers are much warmer, our falls much milder and longer, and our winters shorter by at least one month, and accompanied with much less snow and cold than formerly. What causes have effected these changes in our system of weather, and what may we reasonably suppose will be the ultimate extent of this revolution, already so apparent, in our system of weather?
"Every acre of cultivated land must increase the heat of our summers, by augmenting the extent of the surface of the ground denuded of its timber, so as to be acted upon and heated by the rays of the sun.
"When we consider the great extent of the valley of the Mississippi, so remote from any sea to furnish its cooling breezes, without mountains to collect the vapors, augment and diversify the winds, and watered only by a few rivers, which in the summer time are diminished to a small amount of water, we have every data for the unpleasant conclusion that the climate of the western regions will ultimately become intensely hot and subject to distressing calms and droughts of long continuance.
"Already we begin to feel the effects of the increase of the heat of summer in the noxious effluvia of the stagnant water of the ponds and low grounds along our rivers. These fruitful sources of pestilential exhalations have converted large tracts of our country into regions of sickness and death, while the excessive heat and dryness of our settlements, remote from the large water courses, have been visited by endemic dysenteries in their most mortal states.
"Fruits and Nuts: The first fruit which ripened in the country was the wild strawberry. It grew on poor land, on which there was no timber. The fruit was small, and much sourer than the cultivated strawberry. It was not abundant in any place."
"Blackberries grew in abundance in those places where, shortly before the settlement of the country, the timber had been blown down by hurricanes. Those places we called the `fallen timber.'
"Wild raspberries of an agreeable flavor were found in many places, but not plentifully anywhere. Gooseberries of a small size, and very full of thorns, but of an agreeable taste, grew in some places in the woods. The amount of them was but small. Whatever may be the reason, this fruit does not succeed well when transplanted into gardens, where they flower abundantly, but shed the berries before they become ripe.
"Whortleberries were never abundant in this section of the country, but they were so in many places in the mountains. Wild plums were abundant in rich land. They were of various colors and sizes, and many of them of an excellent flavor.
"An indifferent kind of fruit, called buckberries, used to grow on small shrubs on poor ridges. This fruit has nearly vanished form the settled parts of the country. Our fall fruits were winter and fall grapes; the former grew in the bottom lands. They were sour, of little value, and seldom used. The fall grapes grew on the high grounds, particularly in the fallen timber land. Of these grapes, we had several varieties, and some of them large and of an excellent flavor. We still have the wild grapes; but not in such abundance as formerly. In process of time, they will disappear from the country.
"Black haws grew on large bushes along the moist bottoms of small water courses. They grew in large clusters, and ripened with the first frosts in the fall. Children were very fond of them. Red haws grew on the white thorn bushes. They were of various kinds. The sugar haws, which are small, grow in large clusters, and when ripe and free from worm, and semi-transparent, were most esteemed.
"Wild cherries were abundant in many places. To most people they are very agreeable fruit. They are now becoming scarce.
"Pawpaws were plenty along the great water courses and on the rich hills. Some people are fond of eating them. The crab apple was very abundant along the smaller water courses. The foliage of the tree which bears this fruit is like that of the domestic apple tree but not so large. The tree itself is smaller, of a slower growth than the orchard tree, and the wood of a much firmer texture.
"Of hickory nuts we had a great variety; some of the larger shell bark nuts, with the exception of the thickness of their shells, were little inferior to the English walnut.
"Thus, a munificent providence had furnished this region of the earth with the greater number of fruits which are to be found in the old world; but owing to the want of cultivation, they were inferior in size and flavor to the same kinds of fruit in Europe."
"Beasts and Birds: I shall only briefly notice a few of those classes which have already totally or partially disappeared from the country, together with those which have emigrated here with our population. This enumeration, as far as it goes, will serve to show the natural historian a distinction between those beasts and birds which are naturally tenants of the wilderness and refuse the society of man, and those which follow his footsteps from one region to another, and although partially wild yet subsist in part upon his labors.
"The buffalo and elk have entirely disappeared from this section of the country. Of the bear and deer but very few remain. The wolves, formerly so numerous, and so destructive to the cattle, are now seldom heard of in our older settlements. It may seem strange that this ferocious and cunning animal, so long the scourge of the mountainous districts of Europe, should have so suddenly disappeared from our infant country.
"The buzzards, or vultures, grey and bald eagles, ravens, or as they were generally called corbies, were very numerous here in former times. It was no uncommon thing to see from fifty to one hundred of them perched on the trees over a single carcase of carrion. All these large carnivorous birds have nearly disappeared from our settlements.
"The wild turkeys, which used to be so abundant as to supply no inconsiderable portion of provision for the first settlers, are now rarely seen. "The different kinds of wood-peckers still remain in the country, with the exception of the largest of that genus of birds, the wood-cock, which is now very scarce.
"The black and grey squirrels still remain in the country. These beautiful but destructive little animals gave great annoyance to the first settlers of our country, by devouring large quantities of their corn in the fields before it was fit for gathering.
"The terrible panther, as well as the wild cat, have also taken their leave of us.
"In return for the beasts and birds which have left us, we have gained an equal number from the Atlantic side of the mountains, and which were unknown at the first settlement of the country.
"Our mornings and evenings are now enlivened with the matins and vespers of a great variety of singing birds, which have slowly followed the emigration from the other side of the mountain.
"The honey bees are not natives of this country; but they always keep a little in advance of the white population. We formerly had some professed bee hunters; but the amount of honey obtained from the woods was never considerable, owing to the want of a sufficient quantity of flowers to furnish it.
"Crows and black birds have of late become very plenty. They were not natives of the wilderness.
"Rats, which were not known here for several years after the settlement of the country, took possession of it, in its whole extent, in one winter season.
"Opossums were late comers into the country. Fox-squirrels have but a very few years ago made their appearance on this side of the mountains.
"Thus our country has exchanged its thinly scattered population of savages for a dense population of civilized inhabitants, and its wild beasts and large, carnivorous fowls, for domesticated animals and fowls, and others which although wild are inoffensive in their habits, and live at least partially on the labors of man. This has been effected here perhaps in less time than such important changes were ever effected in any other region of the earth."
Dr. Doddridge's credentials for writing on the pioneer life are herein described by Wills De Hass, author of History of the Early Settlement and Indian Wars of Western Virginia (1851), "The writer having been an eye-witness as well as an actor in most of the scenes he so aptly and graphically portrays, we doubt not he has drawn a faithful picture, and one which every old pioneer will be able to recognize. Only one who has been an eye-witness to such scenes, or derived them directly from the pioneer fathers, could properly describe them."
From History of the Valley of Virginia (1902) by Samuel Kercheval, we learn that "The German women mostly wore tight calico caps on their heads, and in the summer season they were generally seen with no other clothing than a linen shift and petticoat - the feet, hands, and arms were bare. In hay and harvest time, they joined the men in the labor of the meadow and grain fields. This custom, of the females laboring in the time of harvest, was not exclusively a German practice, but was common to all the northern people. Many females were most expert mowers and reapers. Within the author's recollection, he has seen several female reapers who were equal to the stoutest males in the harvest field. It was no uncommon thing to see the female part of the family at the hoe or plow; and some of our now wealthiest citizens frequently boast of their grandmothers, aye mothers too, performing this kind of heavy labor. The German women, many of them, are remarkably neat housekeepers. "A Dutchman [German] is proverbial for his patient perseverance in his domestic labors. Their farms are generally small and nicely cultivated. In his agricultural pursuits, his meadows demand his gravest care and attention. His little farm is laid off in fields not exceeding ten or twelve acres each. It is rarely seen that a Dutchman will cultivate more than about ten or twelve acres in Indian corn in one year. They are of opinion that the corn crop is a great exhauster of the soil, and that they make but little use of corn for any other purpose than feeding and fattening their swine. "The Dutchman's barn was usually the best building on his farm. He was sure to erect a fine large bar, before he built any other dwelling-houses than his rude log cabin. There none of our primitive immigrants more uniform in the form of their buildings than the Germans. Their dwelling-houses were seldom raised more than a single story in height, with a large cellar beneath; the chimney in the middle, with a very wide fire-place in one end for the kitchen, in the other end a stove room. Their furniture was of the simplest and plainest kind; and there was always a long pine table fixed in one corner of the stove room, with permanent benches on one side. On the upper floor, garners for holding grain were very common. Their beds were generally filled with straw or chaff, with a fine feather bed for covering in the winter.
"The Germans erect stables for their domestic animals of every species; even their swine are housed in the winter season. Their barns and stables are well stored with provender, particularly find hay; hence their quadrupeds of all kinds are kept throughout the year in the finest possible order. This practice of housing stock in the winter season is unquestionably great economy in husbandry. Much less food is required to sustain them, and the animals come out in the spring in fine health and condition. It is a rare occurrence to hear of a Dutchman's losing any part of his stock with poverty."
This next section will tell us a little about the history of this time period. From History of Pendleton County, we read:
"Prices for Entertainment at Ordinaries
Until the middle of the last century the prices charged by ordinaries, as houses of public entertainment were then usually called, were fixed by the county court. It was a breach of the law to charge more than the authorized price.
1746 Hot diet 12½¢ Cold diet 8¢ Bed with clean sheets 4¢ Stabling and fodder 8¢ Rum per gallon $1.50 Whiskey per gallon $1.00
1763 Hot diet 12½¢ Servant's hot diet 10¢ (In this year, mention is made as to whether boiled or unboiled cider shall be served at meals.) 1773 Common hot diet 21¢ Common hot diet without beer 17¢ Lodging with clean sheet and feather bed 8¢ Stabling for 24 hours with good hay 17¢ Stabling for 12 hours with good hay 10¢ Corn or oats per gallon 8¢ Liquors are graded in 21 prices
1781 Hot dinner $12.00 Cold dinner 10.00 Feather bed and clean sheets 6.00 Corn or oats per gallon 6.00 Stablage and hay per night 8.00 Pasturage per night 5.00 Cider per quart 5.00 Wine per gallon 160.00 Rye whiskey per gallon 80.00 (The above startling prices were due to the worthlessness of the Continental paper money. Later in the same year the following prices were charged: Hot dinner 30.00 Strong beer or cider, per quart 12.00 Pasturage per night 12.00 Rye whiskey per gallon 199.00
1782 Hot breakfast 17¢ Cold breakfast 11¢ Bed with clean sheets 12½¢ Stabling and hay per night 14¢ Corn, per gallon 12½¢ Oats per gallon 8¢ Pasturage per night 12½¢
1785 Hot dinner with usual `bear or cyder,' 25¢ Cold dinner with usual `bear or cyder,' 17¢ Hot breakfast with usual `bear or cyder,' 21¢ Cold breakfast with usual `bear or cyder,' 17¢
Breakfast or supper Dinner 1790 - 17¢ 22¢ 1796 - 21¢ 25¢ 1797 - 22¢ 33¢ 1813 - 12¢ 27½¢ 1824 - 25¢ 37½¢
Cold supper 1790 - 12½¢ 1796 - 17¢ Corn or oats per gal. 1790 - 11¢ 1796 - 12½¢ Lodging per night 1790 - 8¢ 1796 - 12½¢ Pasturage per night 1790 - 8¢ Stablage and hay 1790 - 17¢ 1796 - 12¢ per night 1797 - 25¢ Liquor per gallon 1790 - $.83 - $2.33 Liquor per half pint 1797 - 12½¢ 1813 - 12½¢ - 25¢ Cider, per quart 1790 - 17¢ 1797 - 8¢"
In The West Virginia Encyclopedia (1929) we learn that, "The recorded history of West Virginia begins with the first explorations by white men. It continues through a painful period of occupation by white settlers who had to contend with stubborn forces of nature and the hostility of wandering Indian tribes, supplied by the enemy governments first of France and then of England. After the close of the Indian wars it records a period of expansion of settlements and a steady growth in population, in industry, and in the peaceful arts. Coincident with this development came a demand for equality of rights within the original state, which culminated in disruption and the formation of a new state. The most recent phase covers a period of great industrial development, the adjustment of laws to this development, and the change from a primarily agricultural economy to a complex industrial system.
"The Period of Exploration - It is well known that one of the objects in settling the first colony at Jamestown, Virginia was to afford a base from which the discovery of a short route to the Pacific Ocean might be made. After a short period of development, this object was supplemented by the urge to extend the range of operations of Virginia fur traders. In 1669-1670 Governor Berkeley, who was heavily interested in the fur trade, sent John Lederer on three expeditions westward. In two of these expeditions Lederer claimed that he climbed the summits of the Blue Ridge and saw, across the Shenandoah Valley, the Alleghenies, which form the present boundary between Virginia and West Virginia. It was not long until a rival fur trader set on foot expeditions more important, both for a knowledge of the West and for the extension of British power in America. This man was Abraham Wood, who operated a fur-trading post at the present site of Petersburg, Virginia."
"A long time after these foot expeditions "we have records of explorations in the northern part of the Valley of Virginia. In 1716, Governor Spotswood led a part of elegant gentlemen to the Shenandoah River, where healths were drunk in a variety of costly wines [making] the records of this expedition are somewhat confused."
"Governor Spotswood's interest in western settlements was due to his desire to forestall the French who were threatening to hem in the English colonies to a narrow strip between the coast and the mountains. As a further inducement to settlement, he journeyed to New York in 1722 and purchased from the Iroquois Indians the title to all lands between the Blue Ridge and the Alleghenies. This treaty was carefully observed by the Indians - a fact that facilitated the rapid development of the region. "
The next important exploration was made about 1724 by John Van Meter, a fur trader from New York. He followed the South Branch from its mouth nearly to its source, and made notes of the country. On his return to New York, he advised his sons to make their homes in the valley, saying that it contained the best lands he had seen.
"Meanwhile, the King of England in 1681 had granted the Northern Neck of Virginia between the Rappahannock and Potomac rivers to a number of favorites. The title descended to Lord Fairfax, who was anxious to develop his estate. In order to find out its extent, in 1735, he sent William Mayo with a surveying party along the North Branch of the Potomac. They located the head spring of the North Branch, where they marked a corner stone, and members of the party viewed rivers flowing westward. From a map made by Mayo on the basis of his own and other surveys, it is obvious that the region was already well known. The Savage River in Garrett County, Maryland, was marked with the addition `also North Fork,' making it apparent that the stream had already been visited and named. Eight miles above Harpers Ferry the map shows a `wagon road to Philadelphia' a surprising development for that period. The South Branch is shown on the same map as the Wappacoma, its Indian name. Three other streams, labeled `Opeckon Creek,' `Cacapehon River,' and `Little Cacapehon River,' still bear these names with slight changes in spelling."
"In 1748, the entire population of Virginia was only 82,000 - and the state embraced the areas we now call West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Indianna, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin."
"The First Settlements in West Virginia - "The settlement of West Virginia depended upon the development of adjoining regions. The settled area of Virginia, expanding slowly from the tidewater, reached the eastern base of the Blue Ridge Mountains all along its line by about 1730. The Maryland settlements, having a shorter distance to traverse, had been extended to the upper Potomac by 1715. In 1681 the King of England granted Pennsylvania to William Penn, and he secured a more rapid emigration to his colony than had come to any other colony in America. First came the Quakers, who settled around Philadelphia; then his agents induced thousands of Germans from the Rhine to come to America and settle behind the Quakers; finally his agents brought to America many dissatisfied Englishmen and Scotchmen who had settled in northern Ireland. They settled on the frontier just beyond the Germans. All of them prospered as long as the original proprietor lived; but the aim of Penn's sons was to make money out of the colony. The land titles which they gave to the settlers were unsatisfactory, and the natural restlessness of the Scotch-Irish caused them, under these circumstances, to seek other homes. Farther to the North, the same feeling existed among the colonists who had been induced to settle in New York.
"It happened that the settlements in both Pennsylvania and New York had progressed into the depression between the ridges which formed a continuation of the Alleghenies and the Blue Ridge Mountains. That is the explanation for the early settlements of the South Branch, and that also accounts for the presence of Daniel Boone, a Pennsylvanian, in Kentucky by 1763.
"In character these emigrants were well qualifed to settle a new country. The Scotch-Irish were bold, enterprising, and fearless. The Germans and Dutch were methodical, painstaking, and eager to develop their farms. The combination of these races, with settlers of similar stock who crossed the Blue Ridge from eastern Virginia, was capable of performing the task to which they set themselves - that of carving out an empire in the West."
"The South Branch in the vicinity of Romney was settled in 1735 by a group of Scotch-Irish families. Among them were such names as Cobun, Howard, Walker and Rutledge. The next year a group of four families settled farther up the river in the vicinity of Moorefield. In 1748 George Washington, surveying lands for Lord Fairfax, found families, many of whom spoke only German, on the Great Cacapon, Lost and Little Cacapon rivers. He classified them as English, Scotch, German and Dutch. On the South Branch, he enumerated a number of heads of families sufficient to account for a total population of two hundred.
"Thus far there had been little difficulty in securing titles to land. A thrifty farmer, by giving his steers human names, secured a farm in the name of each one. The scanty records available show that by 1765 settlements had progressed far into what is now Pendleton County and that the lower South Branch had become fairly well developed. A wagon road had been constructed up the valley. Small herds of cattle and hogs were owned by some settlers. German missionaries made trips into the valley and wrote in their diaries of their work. It was not long until the South Branch became the center for the dispersal of settlers into the Monongahela Valley.
"In 1756, the tide of settlement in the South Branch Valley spilled over the divide. Robert Files and David Tygart built cabins within three miles of each other in the vicinity of the present town of Beverly. The first gave his name to Files Creek; the second, his name to the Tygarts Valley River. This settlement, being on the Seneca Trail where it could hardly escape the observation of Indians, was soon broken up. Files was murdered and Tygart barely made his escape into the South Branch Valley."
"Early Industries - "The economy of the pioneers was exceedingly simple; for a long time it consisted in wringing from nature the barest necessities. Most of the food supply came from animals killed in the forest, from pigs, and from small patches of corn grown in the clearings. Small mills sprang up in every community for the grinding of corn. [An example of this is the Hardy County grist mill of the McDonald family.] Sometimes they were operated by water power, but in the beginning in most cases they depended on hand or foot power. The clothing came from flax which was grown, retted, hackled, spun, and woven by the settlers and their wives on their own clearings. For the remainder of the necessities of life and the few luxuries, the people were compelled to make long trips on pack horses to older communities like Winchester and Staunton, Virginia, where they purchased guns, powder, lead, and salt, and occasionally, if they could afford it, a little calico. In exchange they gave the skins of animals and perhaps rare medicinal roots and herbs.
"With the opening of commerce on the western rivers, it became possible to export corn and wheat, though the settlers suffered from the competition of Ohio and Kentucky for this trade. They very early turned to crude manufacturing. Even before the close of the eighteenth century some corn and rye were distilled into whiskey and carried over the mountains."
In Wappatomaka (1971) Charles Morrison wrote, "Along the Wappatomaka, the Seneca trail, sometimes called the Shawnee trail, led from what is now western New York, down across the Potomac to the South Branch Valley. Generally, it followed that stream and its North Fork to Seneca Rock, where it turned west and followed Seneca Creek to it headwaters near the top of the Alleghenies. From there it led to the Ohio country and the land of the Shawnees.
"The Senecas were the most important tribe of the Iroquois League. The Shawnees, originally inhabitants of the middle Ohio Valley, were dispersed by the Iroquois, but reassembled farther upstream about 1725. It was from this vantage point that they played a significant role against the settlers in the valleys of Virginia during and following the French and Indian War.
"There were other trails within the Valley. One led from the North Fork, through Germany Valley [a cove along the North Fork] and across North Fork Mountain, to the site of Upper Tract.
"The trails were part of a network which threaded the valleys of Virginia and connected them with the tribal lands beyond. Over them the Indians moved about in search of game, and to seek or evade their foes. As the tide of settlement moved southward and westward, most of them became wagon roads and some of them became a part of our modern highway system.
"Most of the raids along the South Branch were led by the Shawnee chief, Killbuck. In 1758 he conducted a most savage raid on the upper part of the Valley. After overrunning the fort at Upper Tract and killing its occupants, his war party crossed over to the South Fork and besieged Fort Seybert" where they massacred 30 people."
A letter from Robert Dinwiddie to George Washington, [future President of the United States] written from Williamsburg, Virginia on September 11, 1754 tells us that "Dear Sir, No doubt You have heard that our Assembly is prorogu'd without granting any Supplies; Under this unexpected Disappointment, I fear we are not Numbers sufficient to attack the Fort taken from Us by the French: Therefore I order You to give a Detachment of Forty or Fifty Men to Capt. Lewis, with them he is to march immediately for Augusta County, in order to protect our Frontiers from the Incursions of small Parties of Indians, & I suppose some French".
In March 1756, the General Assembly of Virginia passed an act ordering that a chain of forts be built along the frontier. The average distance between these forts was to be 20 miles. The fort at Hugh Mann's Mill was likely in the vicinity of Upper Tract, near where Philip Harper lived. This area was the most populous community on the northern waters of the South Branch at that time. The fort at Matthew Harper's [not related to us] was the north part of present day Highland County on the Cowpasture River. There were to be 50 men placed at both of those forts.
Pursuant to this General Assembly act, a Council of War was held on July 27, 1756. The records of that meeting tell us it was ordered "that a Fort be built at Petersons on the South Branch of Potowmack nigh Mill Creek at some convenient spot of ground for a fort, which is left to the discretion of the Officers appointed for that service. Also another fort to be at Hugh Mans Mill on Sheltons tract. And another fort to be constructed at the most convenient place and the pass of the greatest importance between the above said tract and the house of Mathew Harper on Bullpasture, which is to be built at the discretion of the Officers appointed for that purpose. Also a fort to be constructed at Mathew Harpers or some convenient spot there."
In History of Pendleton County (1910) Oren F. Morton gives us some background on the colonies during this time period: "In 1748, the population of the thirteen colonies was about 1,150,000. Only one-twentieth of the people lived in towns. The largest cities were Boston and Philadelphia, each having about 15,000 inhabitants. Philadelphia was a comparatively new place, having been founded only 65 years before. In the Valley of Virginia were possibly 5,000 people, all these having settled there within 20 years.
"The roads being very bad and the streams seldom bridged, there was no journeying by land when it was possible to travel on the bays and rivers. To be in a stage coach was torture. There was an active commerce with England and the West Indies, but there was no intercourse with South America, and the waters of the Carribean were infested with pirate ships. The great Pacific [Ocean] was less known than is the Arctic today. Africa was known only along the coast, and the lands east of Russia or beyond our own Mississippi were little else than a blank space on the map. It took several weeks for the sailing vessels of that day to make the voyage to Europe.
"There were few colleges, but outside of New England there was no scheme of general education. In all the colonies were not a few persons who were well versed in the higher education of that day. A large share of these were ministers and lawyers. A daily newspaper was entirely unknown. The mails were few, slow, and irregular, and the frontier settlement did well if it received a mail once a month.
"Two new streams of immigration had lately set in to the American shore. These were the Scotch-Irish and the German." The greatest portion of these " came direct to the port of Philadelphia, because of the liberality of the Pennsylvania government. But the inhabitants of the settled part of the colony preferred to see the newcomers pass on. So they moved inland in search of unoccupied land. The Scotch-Irish being on the whole the more venturesome went furthest. They penetrated the mountain valleys, spread northward and southward, and thus formed a heavy rim of settlement clear along the western frontier. As now represented in Pendleton, the leading pioneer elements would be the German, the Scotch-Irish and the English.
"By the close of 1757, not less than about 40 families, or 200 individuals were living in what is now Pendleton county. They were not unequally divided between the South Branch and the South Fork, and they were most numerous toward Upper Tract and the Dyer settlement [not far from Moorefield, WV]. Whether actual settlement had yet been made on the North Fork is uncertain.
"We may picture to ourselves a primeval forest broken only by a few dozen clearings, nearly all of those lying on or near the large watercourses. In these clearings were the small houses, usually of unhewn logs. Around the house were small, stump-dotted fields of corn, grain and flax. The pens for the livestock were strongly built, so as to protect the animals from the bears, wolves, and catamounts [mountain lions] that were the cause of continual anxiety and occasional loss. The "broads" leading out from the settlements were simply bridle-paths, and commodities were carried on the backs of animals.
"There was a little mill at the Dyer settlement and another at Upper Tract. Doubtless there was also a blacksmith in each valley. But there was neither church, schoolhouse nor store. In the Dyer settlement, judging by the character of its people, it is probable there was some makeshift to provide elementary instruction for the young people. Elsewhere it is not likely that anything was being done in this line, unless through direct parental effort. [In 1759, we find Philip Harper and Jacob Harper at the settlement of Dyer's estate.]
"By the defeat of [General] Braddock in 1755, the frontiers of Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia were left totally exposed, and during the next four years the entire line was harassed by raiding parties of the enemy. Sometimes the Indians acted alone, and sometimes they were accompanied by French soldiers. The damage inflicted was very great and it was done by a comparatively small number of warriors.
"In 1756 Virginia appropriated $33,333 for the building of 23 forts, these to comprise a chain extending from the great Cacapon in Hampshire [County] to the Mayo in Halifax. [General] Washington was sent to the frontier with his headquarters at Winchester [Virginia]." In one letter he writes, `Desolation and murder still increase.' September 28, 1757 he writes these words: `The inhabitants of this valuable and very fertile valley are terrified beyong expression.'
"In 1757 there were 1,873 tithables in Augusta [County]. The following year the number had fallen to 1,386, showing that notwithstanding the rangers who had been sent to watch the frontier, many of the people had fled to places of greater safety. No doubt some of the Pendleton pioneers took part in this general flight, yet so far as we can see they remained pluckily on the ground, even though in constant peril, except in the dead of winter when the Indians did not go out on the warpath. Their houses were made bullet proof and the walls were pierced with loopholes. Several houses of this character are yet standing [in 1910] though of somewhat later date than the period under consideration. In time of alarm a family would seek the protection of the nearest fort.
"In 1756 three bloody battles were fought in Hampshire and on January 4 of the same year [General] Washington thus writes of the weak settlements in Pendleton: `I have now ordered Capt. Waggoner with 60 men to buid and garrison two others (forts) at places I have pointed out high up the South Branch.' August 16, he makes this further report: `We have built some forts and altered others as far south on the Potomac as settlers have been molested; and there only remains one body of inhabitants at a place called Upper Tract who need a guard. Thither I have ordered a party.'
"We have no account of any raids into Pendleton prior to 1757, and if any took place it would not appear that the loss or damage was serious. In February of the year mentioned Jacob Peterson, living on North Mill Creek near the Grant [County] line lost six children by capture, one of them soon afterward escaping. On May 16 of the same year the Indians killed Michael Freeze and his wife, who lived close to Upper Tract. On March 19, 1758 there was another and more destructive raid upon the Upper Tract settlement. Peter Moser, who lived opposite the mouth of Mallow's Run, was shot dead while unloading corn at this crib. Nicholas Frank and John Conrad were also killed, George Moser and Adam Harper were wounded, and John Cunningham and two other persons were captured. These casualties happened the same day, though it is not certain that all of them took place at Upper Tract. It is rather strange that these two raids should have accurred [occurred] so close to the fort if there was an efficient garrison in it at the time. It is very possible that a reenforcement was thrown into it shortly after.
"Fort Upper Tract and Fort Seybert appear to have been built in 1756. Where the former stood is not positively known. One tradition places it about...a mile south of Upper Tract village and on the west bank of the river.
"Fort Seybert stood on what is now the houseyard of William C. Miller, who lives a fourth of a mile south of the Fort Seybert postoffice. There was a circular stockade with a two-storied blockhouse inside. The diameter of the stockade was about 90 feet. According to the practice of the day, the wall was composed of logs set in contact with one another and rising at least ten feet above the ground. For going in or out there was a heavy gate constructed of puncheons. The blockhouse stood near the center of the circle, and was apparently about 21 feet square. From the loopholes in the upper room the open space around the stockade could be commanded by the garrison. There is no evidence of a well to make the defenders independent of the fine spring then existing within a walk of two minutes. Mr. Miller deserves the thanks of the public in preserving in its original site a foundation stone of the blockhouse, and in not obliterating the arc of a circle that shows where the wall used to rise.
"A most severe blow now befell the weak settlements of Pendleton. The defense of Fort Upper Tract was intrusted to Capt. James Dunlap, who had commanded a detachment in the Big Sandy expedition. A band of French and Indians appeared in the valley, and on April 27, 1758, they captured and burned the fort and killed 22 persons.
"The tragedy at Fort Seybert took place on the following day - April 28, 1758. There were survivors to return from captivity and relate the event. The people slain in the massacre were 17, some accounts putting the number at 21 or even more. There were 11 captives, four of whom returned to tell the tale.
"The total loss at Upper Tract and Fort Seybert was estimated by [General] Washington at 60 persons. The burning of the forts and the general havoc wrought during the foray were a most severe blow to the infant settlements of the two valleys. Some of the remaining people may temporarily have gone away. But the ground was not abandoned. With indomitable resolution the pioneers went about repairing their losses, and we soon find them settling up the estates of their murdered neighbors.
"Not even the four trying years of 1861-5 with their scenes of domestic guerilla war can go beyond the perilous years of 1755-9. That early period shows to us a young, sparsely settled frontier community, compelled to live in the shadow of the stockage: compelled to use watchful care, lest at any moment the stealthy foe...might burn the farm house, kill...the adults of the family...and carry away young children who though spared might yet be lost to the parents. It shows also an unconquerable will to maintain the foothold that was costing so heavily in danger, suffering and disaster."
In Virginia: Its History and Antiquities, Howe writes, "Twelve miles northeast of Franklin, on the south fork of the south branch of the Potomac, stood Seybert's fort, in the early settlement of the country. Withers' Border Warfare tells this tale:
'In this fort, in the year 1758, the inhabitants of what was then called the "Upper Tract," all sought shelter from the tempest of savage ferocity; and at the time the Indians appeared before it, there were contained within its walls between thirty and forty persons of both sexes and of different ages. Among them was Mr. Dyer (the father of Col. Dyer, now of Pendleton) and his family. On the morning of the fatal day, Col. Dyer and his sister left the fort for the accomplishment of some object, and although no Indians had been seen there for some time, yet did they not proceed far, before they came in view of a party of forty or fifty Shawnees, going directly towards the fort. Alarmed for their own safety, as well as for the safety of their friends, the brother and sister endeavored by a hasty flight to reach the gate and gain admittance into the garrison; but before they could effect this, they were overtaken and made captives.
`The Indians rushed immediately to the fort and commenced a furious assault on it. Capt. Seybert prevailed (not without much opposition) on the besieged to forbear firing until he should endeavor to negotiate with, and buy off the enemy. With this view, and under the protection of a flag, he went out, and soon succeeded in making the wished-for arrangement. When he returned, the gates were thrown open, and the enemy admitted.
`No sooner had the money and other articles stipulated to be given, handed over to the Indians, than a most bloody tragedy was begun to be acted. Arranging the inmates of the fort in two rows, with a space of about ten feet between them, two Indians were selected, who taking each his station at the head of a row, with their tomahawks most cruelly murdered almost every white person in the fort; some few, whom caprice or some other cause induced them to spare, were carried into captivity. Such articles as could be well carried away were taken off by the Indians; the remainder was consumed, with the fort, by fire."
Return to The Harper Family Homepage